Singapore—The trial of former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is scheduled to finally begin at 2:00 this afternoon (April 3). The trial involves the amount of RM42 million (S$ 14 million) allegedly belonging to a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB), SRC International Sdn Bhd.
Mr Najib was unseated by Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia’s last General Election, held in May 2018. Charges in connection with the 1MDB scandal were leveled against him a few months after he left his position, Between July 5 and August 8, he was facing seven charges due to the RM 42 million connected with the 1MDB.
Three of those charges are for criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds, when, as both Prime Minister and Finance Minister of the country, he had control over this money.
He is also charged with one count under an anti-corruption law of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same RM42 million.
The other three charges are for money-laundering the same amount of RM42 million.
While the prosecution has been prepared for the trial even as far back as November of last year, the legal team of the former Prime Minister were not available at that date, therefore the High Court set the trial for February 12 through March 29 of this year.
In the meantime, the lawyers of Mr Najib also filed four applications in relation to the case, all of which did not prosper. These appeals included a gag order on the media and the public from discussing the merits of his RM42 million case.
And then, on February 11, one day before the trial was supposed to start, the Court of Appeal granted that the trial temporarily be put on hold until the resolution of one of the appeals.
Malaysia’s Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, has said that Mr Najib is delaying the trial, seen by many as a litmus test of Dr Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan government’s stand on corruption.
However, the former Prime Minister’s defense team denied that they were delaying the trial.
On March 21 they were able to get a stay, or postponement, of the trial from the Court of Appeal until such a time that three of Mr. Najib’s appeals were heard. However, by March 27 this stay was reversed by the Federal Court, which said that the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction for granting the order.
On March 28, the High Court scheduled Mr Najib’s 1MDB trial to begin on April 3.
But last Monday, April 1, Mr Najib’s legal team asked the Federal Court to review its decision to reverse the decision from the Court of Appeal.
The Malay Mail reports that Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee, one of Mr Najib’s lawyers, said, “We didn’t actually file this review with a view to delay the trial. We just thought the decision by the Federal Court needs to be corrected, otherwise it could potentially set a bad precedent.”
Another of Mr Najib’s lawyers, Counsel Harvinderjit Singh, told High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Tuesday, April 2, “We have filed a review application of the Federal Court’s decision lifting the stay order of the trial this morning.” He said this during the mention of Najib’s corruption case involving RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.
The lead prosecutor in the case is Attorney-General Tommy Thomas. The prosecution is ready to call on 63 witnesses, among whom are government officials. There are 35 volumes of documents of over 3,000 pages submitted to the defence by the prosecution, including minutes from SRC International’s meetings.
Meanwhile, a Malaysian named Karim Yasin has circulated a petition online asking for Mr Najib’s trial to be broadcast live, in the interest of transparency and accountability. Mr Najib hinslef supported this.
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, however, said the matter is up to the courts. Shee also said, “We don’t want to make it as a circus.” /TISG
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